FG should be more responsible on NDDC matters —Wali
Mr Kingsley Weneda Wali, the convener of Rivers Unity Foundation (RUF), reflects on the closure of the nation’s land borders and other policies and programmes enunciated by the Federal Government lately. He spoke to ONYEMA GODWIN.
What policies and programmes do you want the Federal Government to accord priority to alleviate the suffering Nigerians in 2020?
The government must learn to communicate with the Nigerian people. The government has been shown love and understanding by Nigerians, but the managers of the state still are stuck in the anachronistic taciturn arrogance. The government should engage the people better by telling them why they are borrowing; how they will improve power; how they will secure the country better and if possible, engage motor park economists to explain the ABC of the government’s economic roadmap. The government must do and be seen to be doing something about food security, education and healthcare delivery. In summary, let the government talk to us and stop the arrogance.
What are the issues among the following challenges: Boko Haram menace, banditry, kidnapping, poor electricity provision, electricity tariff increase, subsidy controversy, Value Added Tax (VAT) increase, border closure, electoral system, unemployment and electricity, should the Federal Government focus on most?
I believe there is a nexus between unemployment and insecurity, and no one can manage the temper or anger of a hungry man. Therefore, the government should consider unemployment and food security as national emergencies. If closing the borders will encourage local production, with a trickledown on employment, then let’s do as China did. Also, if there is a correlation between the closure of the borders with an improved security situation in the North-East and the North-West, then let’s also do as China did. If we don’t fix our security issues – food and physical, then expecting an empty stomach to behave well on Election Day is like waiting for godot. Only the people can check electoral malfeasance and not the Acts of the Parliament.
There is the allegation that the government has continued to some sections of the country in the provision of infrastructure, especially the Niger Delta region. What are those areas you will advise that the government focus on to give the people a sense of belonging?
The greatest injustice the people and the government of the country have visited on the Niger Delta is the abandonment of the East-West road. I’ve not been able to understand how the Nigerian state is able to sleep well at night, without a care about the East-West road, while investing heavily on the Lagos- Ibadan expressway. It’s actually scandalous that we’ve ignored the axis of wealth- Onne Junction – Benin. Some have blamed the political leadership of the region for sleeping on the rights of the people of the region. Even at that, why is Nigeria so wicked to the goose that is laying the diamond eggs? I’ve heard the noise about Ministry of Niger Delta and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). My response to that is, I want to be shown which year’s budget captured the funding of the Third Mainland Bridge. I will simply advise that the government should do all it can to avoid another anger from the region. I doubt if any bribe, in the form of amnesty will stop the anger that will probably be driven by intellectuals and not the strong arm of pleasure and attention seekers. Also, the government should learn to be more responsible in her dealings on matters concerning the NDDC; it must be seen as a development vehicle and not a platform for settling political jobbers. That cesspool of corruption must be straightened out and I’m not talking of the forensic jargon being mouthed by the Presidency and the Minister of Niger Delta. Nobody is fooled.
What should the government do to achieve an immediate improvement on the provision of electricity?
The government should simply use the template that was used to revolutionise the telecoms sector for the liberalisation of the power sector; make the process transparent and competitive and we shall be okay. Competitive participation worked with the banking sector;it worked with the telecoms sector and will surely work with the power sector. What we have now is reminiscent of the Abacha telecoms misadventure. That’s a terrible model to copy.
What is your comment on the contradiction of closing of the Nigerian borders to trade and commerce while the government announced free entry into the country of all African?
I personally don’t see a contradiction between the closing of the borders and the visa-on-Arrival policy of the Buhari administration. Even with the closure of the border, people are allowed to move across the borders, but not goods. So, the Visa on Arrival doesn’t translate into unrestricted movement or dumping of goods. That is my understanding of the Visa-on-Arrival policy- free movement of Africans and not goods. I don’t see anything about religious or anti-Nigeria political considerations. I will like to be educated on that and until then, it is all mischief to impute religion or political considerations.